Toolbox: Retro kids tool sets

Toolbox: Retro kids tool sets

In the Make: Online Toolbox, we focus mainly on tools that fly under the radar of more conventional tool coverage: in-depth tool-making projects, strange, or specialty tools unique to a trade or craft that can be useful elsewhere, tools and techniques you may not know about, but once you do, and incorporate them into your workflow, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without them. And, in the spirit of the times, we pay close attention to tools that you can get on the cheap, make yourself, or refurbish.


Everyone has their first maker experience story. Mine was when I was five years old and I got a Handy Andy Tool Set for Christmas, exactly like the one pictured here. My mother walked into our kitchen and cried out in horror as she found me on the counter, using my tools to take apart the family toaster. That was transgressive enough, but the appliance was still plugged in! As the story goes, I had a hammer and screwdriver jammed down into the heating coils and was going to town.

I’ve always had a special misty-eyed fondness for that tool set (and my first Erector Set I got a few years later). Periodically, I go online and do a search on these sets and reminisce. Recently, I bumped into a blog post on Sir Richard’s Tool Kit. He got the same set that I did, also for Christmas, at five years old. His post concludes:

It was a great thing to have these at such a young age. I did a fair amount of harm to myself and the tools during the learning process, but it all worked out in the end. It was that introduction that gave me such a strong interest in tools and making things. Those are skills that have helped me to no end. And that makes me think of the quote by the great Red Green, “If they don’t find you handsome, a least they’ll find you handy.” Words to live by.

I can only hope that kids today, at least those with make-minded parents, will have similar fond feelings, looking back on their first Sparkle Labs or Gakken kits or whatever.

What are your kid tools remembrances and what was your first “maker experience?” Share your stories in the comments.

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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. His free weekly-ish maker tips newsletter can be found at

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